See Inside North Korea’s Gigantic $24 Million Art Museum in Cambodia
Will tourists actually visit it?
Cambodia has a bizarre new tourist attraction: a $24 million museum largely funded by North Korea. Five years in the making, the 19,700 square-foot institution, located near the Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap, is evidence of the growing ties between North Korea and Cambodia, one of the Communist nation’s few allies.
“We need more tourist products such as this to attract visitors to Cambodia,” said Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An at the institution’s opening ceremony.
The Angkor Panorama Museum, which opened December 4, is the work of the Mansudae Art Studio, North Korea’s nationally-run art factory, which is largely-known for producing massive Soviet-esque monuments for African countries. Artists from Mansudae visited London this past year, for an exhibition at the North Korean embassy there.
Over 50 North Korean artists reportedly contributed their work, a construction manager on the project told the Independent.
At the new museum, the studio has turned an eye to Cambodian history, creating artwork that glorifies life under the ancient Khmer kingdom. Attractions include a 3-D movie about Khmer stone cutting and transportation, hundreds of paintings of an idyllic Cambodia, a to-scale copy of a massive Buddha statue at Angkor Wat’s Bayon temple, and the 394-foot-long panoramic mural depicting life and war in the Angkorian era that gives the museum its name.
“North Korea is facing serious economic sanctions so is really desperate to get hard cash, so operating and constructing these kind of monuments is very lucrative work,” an anonymous North Korean official told the Independent. The museum is “definitely going to be a funnel for making money,” he added.
The Khmer Times reports that South Koreans are concerned the the museum will be a source of North Korean propaganda that could potentially influence tourists. The Angkor Wat complex welcomes over two million foreign visitors a year, many of them from neighboring South Korea, according to USA Today.
“By associating Angkor Wat with an international human rights pariah government like North Korea, Cambodia is tarnishing its historical legacy,” Human Rights Watch spokesman Phil Robertson told the Phnom Penh Post. “Tourists should stay away from this museum.”
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